Does The Accie’s New Plan Require a New Planning Permission?

Save Stockbridge has written to the City of Edinburgh Planning Committee asking that they investigate the Academicals’ new plan for the Raeburn Place rugby ground.

Save Stockbridge thinks that because some uses (e.g. changing rooms) are to be relocated  to the building fronting Comely Bank Road but are not shown on the approved plans, a new planning 16-06-18permission ought to be required.  Questions also arise because the new plan will divide the approved plan into two parts, resulting we believe, in the creation of what is called a new “planning unit” with a separate lease to the rest of the land.  Ordinarily, part of a planning permission can be implemented, but in this case we think the proposals amount to a scheme which is materially different to that approved.

The law on these issues is however very complicated.  Save Stockbridge is therefore taking legal advice on what is a grey area of planning law where outcomes are hard to predict.

It is important to remember that the Academicals originally told the community that the planning application was for “a new sports stadium, club house and associated facilities” with the “commercial, business and retail uses” described as “supporting” uses*.   Now it seems they want the supporting uses first without most of the sporting facilities.  What a turn around!  It is simply not good enough to say that a second phase will deliver the new sports facilities, the upgraded pitches and the Museum because they are more likely to attract funding from trusts and foundations. Why haven’t they attracted such funding already?

* Pre-Application Consultation, as included in the Public Consultation Statement, Oct  2012.


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Evening News Article regarding Charitable Status

Save Stockbridge feature heavily in an article in today’s Evening News:

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Questions Raised about Charitable Purposes

Save Stockbridge has written to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) regarding the new plans for the Raeburn Place Rugby Ground.  In May 2014 OSCR took the exceptional step of publishing a 6 page statement to explain the basis of its decision to grant charitable status to the Raeburn Place Foundation.  OSCR said: “The charity provided us with detailed financial projections as part of their application and we have based our decision on the intention to provide public benefit on this evidence.” In view of the current situation we have asked OSCR to make enquiries into the current financial situation.

The charitable purposes of Raeburn Place Foundation (RPF) are:

  1. The advancement of heritage; and
  2. The advancement of public participation in sport.

Questions have to be asked about whether these purposes can be delivered without the museum  and without making playing and changing facilities available to the public

The RPF told OSCR they would specifically provide:

  • changing rooms for use by other clubs and teams,
  • an upgraded pitch to allow 14 sessions per week for public use,
  • A speed training running track for public use,
  • Gym and fitness facilities for use by the public.

We await a response from OSCR.



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What Alternatives are Available for a Clubhouse, Changing Rooms and Other Facilities?

Commentary by Nick Evans, Vice Chair, Save Stockbridge

Plenty of advice is available about designing a clubhouse with changing rooms and other sporting facilities.  Some is for ‘off the peg’ buildings and some is for bespoke buildings.  Some designs are modular, meaning that initial requirements can be met at short notice and added to as required at a future date.


Sportscotland’s Advice

A good place to start would be sportscotland’s data sheets number 150 – 158 . These include outline plans and notional costs for different types of construction.  For example, a masonry building with 4 changing rooms and club house at £410,000, plus fees and siteworks.

 Scottish Rugby also offers good advice

 “For an average sized club running a selection of minis, juniors, youth, women’s and girls’ and senior teams, the requirements for clubhouse facilities are fairly similar. Clubs should be looking to provide 2 – 4 changing areas with ensuite showers and both male and female toilet facilities, an officials changing room for up to 5 officials with its own showers and toilet, an equipped medical room, disabled access to all areas, a social/community area and bar, bar storage area and cleaners and equipment storage areas.”


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Chairman’s Update – June 2018

Firstly, thank you all so much for coming back to us re the recent data protection legislation changes. It is very encouraging when so many of you opt to remain on our mailing list, especially at a time when so much is going on and when the build looks increasingly unlikely to happen. After 6 long years and the use of fundraisers, the Raeburn Place Foundation (RPF) have not been able to raise sufficient funds for their  huge development. In a recent “begging” letter (April 2018) the developer announced his intention to split the build into 2 phases. The first is the commercial aspect costing £8.5m and the second, the sporting facilities at £6m. The total cost including design, planning fees, RPF costs and contingencies will therefore be at least £16/17m.

The Foundation claim to have raised £3m in donations up until now, of which £2m has been spent on legal costs, design, enabling work and other expenses. A loan of £5m from a commercial lender is apparently under negotiation. They are currently begging for the remaining £2.5m required to complete phase 1 which must be promised or submitted by the end of May 2018. This is determined by the long-stop dates on the leases with the commercial tenants (a pre-set date after which a prospective lessee can withdraw his offer to rent without penalty). We believe this date to be imminent and unsurprisingly in a very recent communication, Charles Robertson (president of the EAC) admits that the original targets had not been realised, so will we soon see Marks and Spencer pulling out of this agreement altogether? We don’t know how much money has been raised this time, but have reason to think it very minimal.

Though fairly silent of late, Save Stockbridge has been very active fighting this development at every opportunity. We have certainly dented the developers’ ambitions and will continue to do so at every chance. The ransom strip remains a major issue- it has now been purchased by a third party who  effectively has  control of the solum beneath where the wall once stood. Though the RPF repeatedly deny the existence of this, it must be a major concern to them, particularly the likelihood of further court action involving considerable sums of money. It would have been nice if the planning committee had, 5 years ago, done the sensible thing and upheld the request by Nigel Bagshaw that granting consent for the development be subject to completion in full and not in phases. Had that been a condition at the time, the whole scheme would have been abandoned a long time ago, but the then planning committee were far too eager to support the development.

Anyone donating money to this build must be aware that that they are giving to a COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT, NOT THE SPORTING FACILITIES EXPECTED. Phase 2 may never be started, let alone finished, so your money may never get to sport.  The RPF have detailed how they intend covering the shortfall—the proposal, in our view, is extremely risky and unlikely to proceed. Save Stockbridge Vice Char Nick Evans expands on this in a separate article which I hope you will find interesting.

The Foundation is in a mess, they have VERY LIMITED FUNDS, they intend, subject to approval, taking out a massive loan, they have the ransom strip to contend with and they are up against deadlines – not a position I would like to be in!

Bruce Thompson
Save Stockbridge


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It’s Time for the Accies to Think Afresh

Commentary by Nick Evans, Vice Chair, Save Stockbridge

The Accies/Raeburn Place Foundation have announced that they only want to build the part of their project along Comely Bank Road, provided of course that they can raise the capital. They have said that the building, the so called phase 1, will incorporate:

  • The commercial units (shops/restaurants/offices)
  • The function suites, and
  • Temporary changing facilities and club space

After that, only if even more capital can be raised, will a second phase deliver the new sports facilities, upgraded pitches and the museum of rugby.

What they haven’t said is almost as significant as what they have:

  • Will the temporary changing facilities be located in a suitable part of the building?
  • How many temporary changing rooms will there be?
  • Will a disabled changing room be included?
  • How much of the south stand and its roof will be built in Phase 1?
  • Will the car park and team bus park in Portgower Place be built in Phase 1?
  • Will the remaining single pitch remain playable for the whole season?
  • How attractive will it be to watch from a stand, or a partial stand, at one end of the pitch?
  • What about the new floodlights?
  • Why have repeated attempts to raise the capital failed?

Without the sporting facilities, this is not so much a reduced project as a new one.  To finance it they intend borrowing £5m, secured against the commercial units.

Can the Academicals Take Back Control?

In a further twist, the former pupils and staff of Edinburgh Academy who control the land as the Academical Club, will be asked to approve or reject the new scheme at their AGM on 18th June. Surely they risk losing the valuable Comely Bank Road frontage if the commercial loan were not repaid?  If so, would the Accies or other sporting groups still be allowed to use the premises without paying rent? Let’s hope the Academicals can think again and use the money for something modest such as a sensible clubhouse and changing rooms.  Surely they can see that circumstances have changed significantly since the original scheme was promoted in 2012?  How will splitting it into 2 phases change the fundamental facts?

Risks and Uncertainties?

This project was launched with a lot of enthusiasm in 2012 and it is for the Academicals to ask whether the risks and uncertainties were explained.  Six years later, the risks have come to the fore and the uncertainties have, if anything, increased.  What is needed now is realism in the face of an uncertain commercial property market, especially where high street retailers are concerned.  Leases are often shorter and break points of only a few years do not provide a guarantee of long term income. Six years of facts speak for themselves.  Save Stockbridge urges the Acamemicals to face the facts honestly, bravely and with integrity.

The team of professionals at Save Stockbridge will continue to analyse the situation and publish updates on our website as the issues emerge.


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Letter Published In Evening News

Reproduced below is the text from a recently published letter from Save Stockbridge Chair Bruce Thompson to the Edinburgh Evening News:


I read, with interest Alan Murphy’s excellent letter (May 10th) in the EN concerning the highly contentious development in Raeburn Place. How right he is and after five long years of wrangling, false promises and dithering, we recently had sight of a “begging” letter pleading for £2.5 million so that they (The Raeburn Place Foundation) could start on phase one of their massive development, over which 3000 local people signed, all against the build.

Originally scheduled for completion in June 2014, we were then advised that the total construction cost would be £8m, now it is £15m. At that time, it was intimated that funding was in place for the whole project. What has happened to it and why the confusion? The office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) was advised that there were well over 60 expressions of interest on the commercial outlets, but now the developer appears to be struggling to find tenants for the last few. There are conflicting reports, but Marks and Spencer (the anchor unit) have recently announced their intention to abandon many of their development plans.

Not only is the developer seeking a £5m commercial loan, but he urgently needs his £2.5m before he can consider starting. To encourage donors, he is now offering incentives to those donating over £1000, and all in the face of a potentially expensive legal battle over the ransom strip along Comely Bank Road. The first of the two proposed phases is the commercial one and not the sporting facilities upon which the project was originally marketed and “sold” to the Councillors. It appears that donors are being asked to finance a shopping centre and not a sporting development. Clearly the whole project is drastically underfunded, so perhaps now is the time to admit defeat and abandon this entire project.

Bruce Thompson

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Copy of Letter from Save Stockbridge published in Evening News

Published in the 16th September edition of the Evening News:


The Edinburgh Accies development in Raeburn Place (originally scheduled for completion in June 2014), is now at least four years overdue. There was a little work done during the summer, but this was only to protect the planning consent and avoid their having to re-apply. As far as we are aware, no contracts have been issued for further work, meaning that nothing is likely to happen in the foreseeable future. This is an impossible predicament for local people who are so incensed at the thought of this huge commercial development on their doorstep and not knowing what, if anything, will happen to this site or whether it will just become another white elephant.

This potential development has caused bitterness, resentment and considerable concern to those who are going to have to live with it. There have been court actions (not yet concluded), protests and several public meetings, but still the developers struggle on, refusing to admit defeat, even when the odds seem to be stacked against them. The potential ransom strip is still very much open to debate, even though the judge, at a recent hearing, failed to adjudicate over this, it is likely that further proceedings will come before the Court of Session.

It is questionable whether the developers have sufficient funds for this build. The fundraising appeal has now been active for several years and certainly does not seem to have been successful, otherwise the project would have commenced some time ago as per the promises of the developers. It might, of course, be that they want court actions out of the way prior to commencing, but this may not concur with some of the statements that have emerged from the promoter’s camp.

Marks and Spencer have certainly expressed an interest in moving to the Raeburn Place site, but nothing is set in stone and all these delays and on-going problems might well act as a deterrent. If M & S ever decide to back out, the loss of this “anchor” as the developers call them is bound to have a serious impact on any other potential lessees.

It is, in our view, very unlikely that this project will proceed, certainly not as per the original plans. Not only is the low wall surrounding the trees along Comely Bank Road already damaged and dangerous, but the graffiti artists have been at the recently erected hoarding. What will it all be like after further periods of delay and is this project a reality or a dream??

Bruce Thompson, (Chair Save Stockbridge)

7 Comely Bank Place Edinburgh EH4 1DT



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Save Stockbridge Commitee Meeting 14th September 2017 – Note of Meeting

The committee were delighted to welcome Nigel Bagshaw as its latest member. As you will all no doubt realise, he has been involved in politics, representing the Green party, for many years and until recently was a ward Councillor for Stockbridge and Inverleith. He is now a translater within the EU.

The meeting lasted an hour and a half. There were 13 items on the agenda. Licensing and planning both came to the fore with further discussions concerning a judicial review. It is extremely likely that the recent decision by Lord Boyd is to be appealed and an independent action against the developers is being considered.

We have received, as the result of an FOI request, considerable data and correspondence from City of Edinburgh Council concerning the trees, which we know locals are concerned about. We are currently studying this and I will report back in due course.

The ransom Strip issue is not dead. Save Stockbridge believe it does exist and intend consulting their own QC for further advice. The agreement with Marks and Spencer is not set in Stone and is subject to the developer obtaining the necessary planning consents. With the build now being 4 ½ years behind schedule we are confident that further delays and problems might jeopardise the whole development.

Whilst the preliminary work is now completed (the planning consent is therefore protected), there is no evidence of any further work and indeed Save Stockbridge believes that, as yet, no contract to complete the work has been awarded to any company. The committee considered all aspects of this and felt that it was an insult to local people that their “village” was being treated with such contempt. Not only is the low wall round the trees already damaged and dangerous but graffiti artists have started on the hoarding, so just what will the area be like in a few months?

We realise that we need to involve our members more, and for this reason intend issuing these statements on a regular basis as well as updating our web site more frequently, so please check the latter every now and again. The committee are also looking at the possibility of another public meeting.

The next meeting is planned for October the 5th.

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Late Summer Update

It’s been quite an exciting period, keeping us on our toes and very active. We have had several committee meetings (some of them emergency), all productive and creating plenty of work for our little team.

The wall on Comely Bank Road

As you will be aware from recent updates, The Grange Trust took The City of Edinburgh Council to The Court of Session over the wall along Comely Bank Road. They as the owners, were trying to establish the Council’s responsibility for maintaining it in perpetuity (as per the agreement of 1912) and the existence of a ransom strip beneath the wall. It is unfortunate that Lord Boyd, who heard the case) dismissed it on grounds that The Grange had no right to pursue it. We find this rather difficult to understand, however what he has done is leave the gate open for an appeal.  As a result of this, the arguments regarding both the ransom strip and ownership of the wall remain open with the solum (the area below the structure) being at the centre of these contentious issues. Mr Spratt, Executive Chairman of the Accies (EAFC) continues to say that there has never been a ransom strip, but then he would say that wouldn’t he?  We, along with others, are encouraging The Grange Trust to appeal this decision.

The judge’s ruling prompted a response from Mr Spratt in an open letter to his club’s membership in which he refers to “the greed, arrogance and hubris (conceitedness)” of some members of the Grange and to the legal case “the action of a few greedy old men and their acolytes”. I have written to The Grange Club to express our horror in the face of such insults and arrogance, also to offer our support for their position. It is quite unacceptable for the officials of an efficient and much respected sports club to be castigated in this way. After this incredibly arrogant letter we have to wonder just what the EAFC will do or say next. We watch and wait with interest.

Progress. What progress?

Some of you may have noticed that work has virtually stopped on site. What has been done up to now is preliminary or enabling work necessary prior to the main build which we were assured in January would commence in May of this year. As far as we are aware no contracts have been issued for the main build. This means that the developer is now at least four years behind the original schedule, which gave June 2014 as the completion date. We wonder just how long all these delays will continue before the developer admits defeat? We are assuming that lack of funds is behind these delays which begs the question—will they ever have enough money? As a point of interest some of the new pavement recently laid has had to be re-done because it did not conform to Council standards and now we are about to notify CEC of the dangerous state of some areas surrounding the trees—loose stones and jagged metal work which could cause injury to people or pets.

It is interesting to note that the planning consent for the development would have expired last month (July) and if nothing had been done by then. it would have had to be re-applied for. That will be why all the recent work has been done, purely to safeguard their own consents, not as suggested by The Raeburn Place Foundation (RPF), {a new charity closely linked to the Accies) to improve the environment for locals and visitors. Just to clarify the situation here.  Raeburn Place Development Ltd is a non-charitable company owned and controlled by the RPF to manage the build and commercial activities.  I do admit though, that the Comely Bank Road pavement is a big improvement on what it has been for the last few years, but the hoarding only screens the old shipping containers, spoil heaps, sundry equipment and mud which still spoils any view from the park.

Political position

Following the Council elections in May, all four of our ward Councillors now support the Accies development. This, despite over 3000 local people having signed a petition against the build and that hundreds more objected to the planning and licensing applications than supported them. Do our local Councillors really believe this massive structure and all the commercial activity will benefit this conservation area and the lives of local people? Its time they stopped promoting this unnecessary build and supported the residents instead. This is certainly not a sporting development: it is a commercial one, something which is prohibited in the agreement of 1912 between the then owners and the City Fathers. At the time, it was clearly and categorically stated that the land would be, for all time, used only for sport or associated activities.

There are to be conference/function facilities for up to 1000 people, licensed restaurants for hundreds more, all regularly open to 1.00 am, a supermarket and seating/standing areas surrounding the pitch  for 5000 spectators. There is also to be a cinema and museum. The Academical Club has said that the stand would be phased, but not the commercial element, Ex Cllr Nigel Bagshaw did ask at the planning meeting that the developer be required to complete the entire build in one stage, but the request was denied—why, we don’t know.

Gavin Barrie, our SNP ward Councillor and now Convenor of the City’s Economic Development Committee said, through the press, that the Grange Club should “drop any further legal action”. We ask why should they accept the Judges opinion as final, especially when the possibility or even likelihood of an appeal exists? Whilst Cllr Barrie referred to this massive and unnecessary development as “the best thing overall for the wider community”, the community in general have never supported it.

Marks and Spencer

The proposed shops along Comely Bank Road are another contentious issue and our arguments against them are on record. Parking, deliveries and access will all be problematic and difficult. Early morning deliveries will inevitably cause nuisance to neighbours and disruption to traffic. We are monitoring the situation very closely and do know the Marks and Spencer “deal” is not set in stone and how they will re-act to all these delays and other on-going problems we don’t know.

I will produce another update in early course, but just wanted to assure our loyal supporters that they are not being neglected, that we are still fighting to the best of our ability and will continue to do so right up to the bitter end, whichever way it goes. We are not prepared to concede to people like Cllr Barrie and will continue to support the 3000 odd local residents who are relying on us to prevent this unwanted, oversized and unnecessary build. The fight continues.


Bruce Thompson
(Chair Save Stockbridge)

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